Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Guys And Dals! Three, Three, Three Dals in One. Fast, Easy, Vegan and Gluten Free!

   Because of everything that's been going on around here I haven't had a full on Indian dinner since we moved into our new house. Well, I'm back at it and done, and last week I put the new kitchen to the test. I cooked a multi-course Indian feast as a thank you to friends who loaned us their place in San Francisco so that Alan could stay there while I was in the hospital at UCSF. I got to play with all my new toys and see just how a kitchen that we designed ourselves worked out. It was amazing! No more screaming and swearing, I wasn't a rushed sweaty mess when our guests showed up. For once I had enough ovens, warmers and counter space to greet my guests civilly when they arrived. What a pleasure.
   Cooking up the first meal on the new place, I decided to stick with the way I've been eating since earlier this year (when I had food poisoning) and feature a vegan meal. This of course is not hard to do with Indian food. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free all fit very comfortably under the Indian cuisine umbrella without changing or adapting a thing. There are a lot of foods of various countries that work really well with varied diets that one doesn't need to go out of the way  or bend over backwards to prepare. One of these is Trevti dal.
   Trevti dal is a Gujarati dish and it features a combo of three dals cooked together with spices and vegetables. Recipes for it are found all over the place, and there are various little twists people add, but one of the best recipes for it that I've found is from my friend Sanjana at K.O. Rasoi. So I used her recipe for Trevti dal as the centerpiece of the meal I prepared to  thank our friends Ed and Heikki for their generosity. It turned out to be an ideal dish for the cold Sonoma nights we've been having, and no matter what sort of meal you're preparing, there's always room for a warm spicy dal dish.

Trevti Dal

Here's What You Need:
1/2 cup moong dal
1/2 cup urad dal
1/2 cup chana dal
 5 1/4 cups hot water
1 onion chopped
3 large shallots or garlic cloves minced
1 inch piece of ginger minced
2 serrano chilies seeded and chopped
1 Tbs coconut oil
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 curry leaves frozen or fresh
1 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
A 16 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Here's What to do:
Mix the three dals together.

Wash and rinse them.

Put the cleaned dal into a pot and add in 5 1/4 cups of hot water.

Boil the dal until it's tender. Skim off any scum that may rise to the surface.

It doesn't take too long to boil the dal into tenderness; about 45 minutes or so . Many people use pressure cookers, but I don't own one and have been cooking dal for 25 years without one. The way I do it is to bring things to a rapid boil then turn down the heat and let the dal bubble along gently until it's ready. If you start to run out of water and your dal isn't tender yet, just add in a bit more water.

When the dal is done, set it aside.
Chop up your spices.

Mince the shallots or garlic.

Chop the chilies.

Get everything ready to go.

In a large pan or kadhai, heat the coconut or vegetable oil.

When the oil is hot add in the brown mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion, garlic or shallots, chilies, asafoetida, curry leaves tar anise , and cinnamon.

Cook everything down until the onions, shallot or garlic are translucent, and things are aromatic.

Add the tomatoes and turmeric to the spice mix.

Cook it gently until everything is blended and tender.

Add it to the cooked dal mixture.

Simmer it all together for about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the chopped fresh cilantro over the dal and mix it in.

Season it with salt to taste.

Then serve it up to hungry guests.

Toasting our friends Ed and Heikki!
   This dal dish is a great example of how a lovely vegan, gluten free entree can be whipped up without having to change anything! I love stuff like this!!

Coming up next, really firing up the kitchen for Indian treats and holiday partying!! Let's take this baby on the road and see how she shakes out. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin/Butternut Squash and Coconut. The Perfect Fall Vegetable Dish.

   I love Fall, I always have. Not for me the long slow Summer nights where it's light til 9:00 o'clock. Give me early darkness, a roaring fire, and all those root vegetables. big gourds, and weird squashes. On chilly Fall nights, the neighbors dog, Smokey barks and howls at whatever's living in that massive redwood tree out back and it makes me want to put something comforting on the stove. Something that screams "The Year's Ending!!! Soon!"
   One of the best things about this time of year is pumpkins. I love them and always stock up on them, because it seems that once Halloween is past it's hard to find them. It's as though as long as you can carve a face in it it's cool to keep a pumpkin around, but after that ...forget about it. I beg to differ. Now I'm not saying that every pumpkin dish has to be made with pumpkin, because as I found out a while back not every pumpkin is good eating. Some pumpkins are not meaty or flavorful enough. If you're lucky enough to find a good one great, but this recipe also works beautifully with squash. Butternut squash to be exact. Butternut squash is actually what passes in a can for pumpkin here in the US, so even though there's a cute little pumpkin in the background of the shot above, what's chunked up in the bowl is actually butternut squash.
   This recipe is really easy to make, and while traditionally it is aSouth Indian dish called a Mathanga Thoran (pumpkin curry) it would serve very well on anyone's Thanksgiving table. So grab your squash and get cooking.

Pumpkin/Butternut Squash Coconut Curry

Here's What You Need:
2 and 1/2 cups of peeled cubed butternut squash
1/2 cup of fresh grated or dried grated unsweetened coconut
8 shallots
2 or 3 large serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp urad dal
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
8 curry leaves fresh or frozen
1 dried red chili
1 Tbs coconut oil

Here's What To Do:
Peel and cube the butternut squash.
Put it into a pot or kadhai.

Add in 1/4 tsp turmeric.

Add in a bit of salt for starters.

Add in about 2 cups of water. Enough to cover the squash. Bring things to a boil.

Boil the squash until it's tender. This should take about 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile chop the shallots and chilies.

If you've got onion or chili goggles, use them.

Put the shallots, chilies and cumin seeds into a grinder.

Whirl everything into a paste.

Drain the cooked squash.

Place 1 Tbs of coconut oil in a hot skillet or kadhai.

When the oil is hot, toss in the mustard seeds and urad dal.
When the mustard seeds start top sputter, add in the curry leaves and dried red chili halves.
stir it around for a couple of seconds then add in the shallot chili paste.

Let it cook and sizzle, stirring it around, then adding the dried or fresh coconut.

Cook it for another few minutes.
Add in the cooked squash/pumpkin pieces.

Mix everything together well.
Check the dish for salt. If it needs more, add some.
When you're ready serve it up!

   Sweet, hot and savory all at once, this is a great dish for the holiday table no matter what you're celebrating. It's gluten free, vegan and vegetarian so no matter whoever you're trying to please, they're guaranteed to be happy with this one! By the way it's also make ahead and reheats well the next day without losing any quality, so there's that!  In fact like most Indian food it only benefits being left to mellow a bit, something we can't alas say about many things.

   I busted out the new kitchen Saturday night and cooked my first full on Indian dinner. What fun.
  Coming up next, Guys and Dals. 4 Guys, 3 Dals what could possibly go wrong??? Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pure and Simple Salmon Chowder, The Cure For a Chilly Autumn Night.

   Fall and Winter are my two favorite times of the year. Yes, I am one of those weirdos who is not particularly fond of the  Summer. Daylight savings depresses me, always has, and I don't know why. When stuff starts turning brown and the wind whips up, I get energized. Chilly days and nights by the fire are what I like. Throw in a little (or a lot) of rain which we desperately need here in California and I'm happy as a clam. Which brings me to the subject here, chowder. Ever since I had my go round with food poisoning last Summer, I've been eating a vegan diet. I have gone vegetarian on occasion but for the most part I cut dairy and eggs out. Cooking Indian food, this is no big whoop as it's one of the easiest cuisines to enjoy where one doesn't even think of missing the meat or the milk. There's plenty of stuff to enjoy without all that.
   But then, last month I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. It's been 24 years since my last time at the cancer rodeo which was when I first started cooking Indian food. I was diagnosed in my 30's, a non smoking, non drinking vegetarian runner. Of course there was the little matter of getting exposed to radiation as a baby, one of the nifty medical tricks they came up with in the 50's which didn't do me any good as it turned out. I got notified about this back in the 80's and so have always kept a close eye on things which saved my ass more than a few times. Back in 1990, I had surgery, and chemo and it was during the midst of all that that I switched from macrobiotics to Indian food and I never looked back. Gradually on the advice of a Chinese herbal doctor I started adding fish and meat to my diet after I finished chemo (something about my ying warring with my yang) but I've never been a massive meat eater. I'm the one who usually eats the vegetables on the plate first.
   In the last month I've had two surgeries, a big one, and a little one. My medical team at UCSF knows that I eat a mainly vegan diet and of course they all know about my Indian food and have been expecting to be cooked for, but the day before my surgery, the nurse practitioner advised me to make sure I had some adequate protein. I fixed myself some eggs and vegetables, quick and easy, but the one thing I couldn't get out of my head was soup. Nothing this time of year is better on a cold night than hot soup! The day I got out of the hospital I started planning a soup menu. Butternut squash, borscht, wild mushroom, and of course chowder.

   Chowder requires fish, and I hadn't been eating fish since the last thing I ate before food poisoning was fish, you can understand why. However it was time to kick over the fish phobia and get back to the swimmy stuff again. I decided I'd cook myself a chowder. So, I did. I made a few clam chowders, but then some wild caught salmon came into view. Granted, I was a little nervous seeing as my last tangle with salmon didn't end so well, but this was a chowder I'd made many times in the past, and this was salmon I would cook myself, so why the hell not?
   Chowders, usually feature clams, crab, lobster, some sort of seafood, but in fact they can be made absolutely vegan or absolutely not vegan. The basis is always a simple thick vegetable base to which any number of things including fish and dairy products can be added or not. All you need is an immersion blender, a food processor or some other sort of pureeing device and you're good to go. It's that easy!

Salmon Chowder

Here's What You Need:
2 leeks
3 ribs of celery
3 yukon gold potatoes
4 cups of water, chicken, or fish broth
2 cups buttermilk (or not, this is optional)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
2 ears of fresh corn or frozen corn
1 lb of fresh salmon
2 strips of bacon or 2 Tbs olive oil, or butter

Here's What To Do:
Wash the leeks thoroughly

 Cut off the roots at the bottom, then slice them thinly on the bias. Only use the white part.

Slice the celery.

Peel and chop the potatoes.

Set the vegetables aside.
If you're using bacon, chop it into small pieces.

Heat a large soup pot on the stove and drop the bacon ( or olive oil or butter) in.
Cook the bacon down until it starts to brown, then add in the chopped vegetables.

If you are not using bacon, melt the butter, or heat the olive oil.
When they're good and hot add in your vegetables.
Stir things around and cook them down until the celery and the leeks have softened.

When they're nice and soft and translucent add in 4 cups of either chicken broth, fish broth, or water.

Bring the soup to a boil then turn everything down to simmer. Put a lid on the pot and cook it gently for about 20 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, cut the kernels off the corn.

Set them aside.
Take the salmon and remove the skin. Cut it into bite size pieces.

Set it aside. Make sure you set it far anough away from certain people who are just waiting to take advantage.

When the potatoes are nice and soft, puree the soup using an immersion blender or some other device.

You want your soup to be nice and thick, if you need to thin it a bit just add a tad more water or broth.
Here is the parting of the ways. If you want your soup to be vegan ignore the next step.
Add in 2 cups of buttermilk.
Mix everything together.

 When the buttermilk is thoroughly incorporated add in the corn kernels.

Stir them around so that they cook through.
Add in 3 Tbs of chopped fresh dill.

If you still want a vegan chowder you can stop here, or add in some sauteed fresh mushooms and be done with it. Delicious totally vegan gluten-free soup with no artificial thickeners.
However if you're using salmon there's one more step.
Add in the salmon.

Stir the salmon around until it cooks through. This takes just a few minutes.
When it's done. serve it up.

   I served this with a green salad. and homemade buttermilk biscuits. I made this soup for myself the day after surgery so you know it's easy and nutritious. Sometimes I make it vegan, sometimes instead of salmon I add in fresh clams or oysters, either way the soup is always a winner. Now that I'm in recovery mode and back to cooking and writing again, I'm all set for all the wonderful fall vegetables. Coming up next. Pumpkin, Kerala style and three count em three dals in one! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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